Is AXT (NASDAQ:AXTI) A Risky Investment?

AXT, Inc. +1.89%

AXT, Inc.




Legendary fund manager Li Lu (who Charlie Munger backed) once said, 'The biggest investment risk is not the volatility of prices, but whether you will suffer a permanent loss of capital.' So it might be obvious that you need to consider debt, when you think about how risky any given stock is, because too much debt can sink a company. As with many other companies AXT, Inc. (NASDAQ:AXTI) makes use of debt. But should shareholders be worried about its use of debt?

What Risk Does Debt Bring?

Debt is a tool to help businesses grow, but if a business is incapable of paying off its lenders, then it exists at their mercy. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. Of course, the upside of debt is that it often represents cheap capital, especially when it replaces dilution in a company with the ability to reinvest at high rates of return. The first thing to do when considering how much debt a business uses is to look at its cash and debt together.

Check out our latest analysis for AXT

What Is AXT's Debt?

The image below, which you can click on for greater detail, shows that at December 2023 AXT had debt of US$55.0m, up from US$47.1m in one year. However, because it has a cash reserve of US$39.9m, its net debt is less, at about US$15.1m.

NasdaqGS:AXTI Debt to Equity History March 29th 2024

A Look At AXT's Liabilities

We can see from the most recent balance sheet that AXT had liabilities of US$81.6m falling due within a year, and liabilities of US$8.00m due beyond that. Offsetting this, it had US$39.9m in cash and US$19.3m in receivables that were due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$30.4m more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

Given AXT has a market capitalization of US$210.4m, it's hard to believe these liabilities pose much threat. Having said that, it's clear that we should continue to monitor its balance sheet, lest it change for the worse. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine AXT's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you want to see what the professionals think, you might find this free report on analyst profit forecasts to be interesting.

In the last year AXT had a loss before interest and tax, and actually shrunk its revenue by 46%, to US$76m. To be frank that doesn't bode well.

Caveat Emptor

Not only did AXT's revenue slip over the last twelve months, but it also produced negative earnings before interest and tax (EBIT). Its EBIT loss was a whopping US$22m. When we look at that and recall the liabilities on its balance sheet, relative to cash, it seems unwise to us for the company to have any debt. So we think its balance sheet is a little strained, though not beyond repair. However, it doesn't help that it burned through US$7.1m of cash over the last year. So to be blunt we think it is risky. The balance sheet is clearly the area to focus on when you are analysing debt. But ultimately, every company can contain risks that exist outside of the balance sheet. For instance, we've identified 1 warning sign for AXT that you should be aware of.

If, after all that, you're more interested in a fast growing company with a rock-solid balance sheet, then check out our list of net cash growth stocks without delay.

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